Category Archives: Other Reviews
Changing perspectives and modes of narration is tricky for any author. However when your debut and most recent novel “The Martian” is made into a motion picture by Ridley Scott starring Matt Damon there is expectation. The key element is that by the time most people, including myself, had read it, the announcement of that production was already made so the key element is that in the mind’s eye there was already a sense of personality and something visual to go with the story. Granted the screenplay that eventually made the movie was created in a different structure and shifted time to make it more linear. The storytelling element of The Martian was in journal format which made the isolation of what that lone astronaut was going through on Mars very isolation. Also the way it was structured you had more of a sense of how long he was there and the time passing. The movie seemingly glossed that over. Not by much but it made a difference. I spoke with Andy before the film was released at an event at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena and then again when The Martian came out on Blu Ray. The question revolved around structure but Hollywood is a machine and there needs to be some compromise. He also said he was working on his next book which was set on the moon. Enter “Artemis”…a very different monster in more ways than one…and interestingly enough one that has a slightly similar intention of all things to “Downsizing” though it was written long before that film was released. Artemis tells the story of Jazz Basura (I always tend to think of Diz played by Dina Meyer from “Starship Troopers” when I hear that name. Jazz is a woman in her late 20s who maybe never reached her full potential. She works the back hallways as a porter…and a smuggler. The interesting aspect is that Andy gave himself a couple interesting challenges to work again. Like with “Annihilation” which revealed in the second book, that the character Natalie Portman plays was Asian, the story here for at least the 2 main characters (3 if you count Sanchez) are all women of color…which should be awesome when the film adaptation comes (since the rights have already been bought by Fox I believe). Jazz is a whip smart promiscuous Saudi Arabian girl brought up by her Muslim welder father who moved them to the moon when she was 10. She never knew her mother. Add to the top of it the only man she ever loved was stolen from her by her best friend, when it turned out her boyfriend was gay. Again complicated but should play out interestingly on screen. And she has a potty mouth so hopefully an R rating works on this. The head administrator of the entire moon base is a cutthroat economist from Kenya which is now the key way to get to the moon since it is on the equator. The mixing of elements here gives the novel a mixture of “Total Recall”, “Wall Street” and “Moon” if that makes sense. This visually could be made down and dirty but the outside elements including elements like the harvesters (an interesting sequence) and places like the Apollo 11 tourism site might be very interesting if it is done like 2001…like more reality based. The underlying politics and intrigue which push the story permeate through to the end with a taut but made for Hollywood 3rd act and the epilogue perfectly encapsulates the power struggle and the dog-eat-dog mentality that will occupy space just as soon as it does Earth. Like many near future tales this novel works through and through. It appeals to the everyman but is high functioning much like The Martian novel. The aspects of science are key to the plot specifically the creation of oxygen, glass and aluminum. It might not sound terribly exciting on that basis but it takes the monopoly of what “Total Recall” was selling and gives it real world context, right down to the assassin part.
By Tim Wassberg
Using the angle of Batman as a political figure sometimes backtracks on itself but also playing idealism and former foes against certain ideas of purity sometimes backfire as well. In “Batman – Detective Comics Vol. 7: Anarky” [Brian Buccellato/DC Comics/176pgs], the main protagonist actually personifies a certain element of freedom that Batman aspires to but does it with vicious abandon and wanton savagery. In opening up the city with “V” type masks, this vision of Anarky simply invites death and not a sense of life. Bruce Wayne, by comparison, has to accept a texture of sacrifice in terms of realizing that no matter how much good he has accomplished he will always be seen by some as the bad guy. The dark snow tinged elements of light mixed with the greens and burnt yellows show a continued essence of twilight reflecting a certain transient state of mind. The reflection of old foes and how their own psychosis functions backwards on them informs this story in the visage of Mad Hatter who seemingly only wants to find his Alice despite the fact that his actions leave him shivering in his own misery in a cell. The same can be said of The Riddler in “Future’s End” which uses the art to even more skewed perception. The Riddler has become both a pawn and an abuser of Gotham’s goodwill but in adhering to his own sense of blurred conscience in not wanting to be outdone, The Riddler is brought to his death. The idea through all the stories in this volume is a fear or admonishment of mortality. Even the beginning story “Terminal” uses this as a trigger with a plane being crashed through Gotham Terminal with a disease infecting all on board. Both a police captain and Batman are exposed but it is the darker black market element that permeates with connections to the Middle East and Russia that give this story a real sense of dread. The art is bathed in shadow with a grand sense of foreboding where the features aren’t exceptionally distinct but dreamlike enough to make one realize the viciousness hoarding below. This, in a way, makes this one of the more visceral graphic novels of late.
By Tim Wassberg
The idea of a boy built of atomic energy but looking back on an era gone past is always an interesting reflection, especially if the actual artistry was done within times of war. Examining “Astro Boy – Omnibus – Vol 2” [Osamu Tezuka/Dark Horse/680pgs], these parallels are definitely intrinsic. A lot has to do with the progression of technology and the idea of assured destruction across the board.One story involves a time machine and the reflexive nature of how robotics will be the downfall of man due to automation. Another reflects how humans, even those with cybernetic implants, still see the robots themselves as slaves. “The Ghost Manufacturing Machine”, one of the stories, is an interesting dichotomy on Nazi Germany and Hitler but also about the exchange of scientists to help propel scientific breakthroughs. This is an interesting perception because in the late 50s Japan could likely see this exchange within the post Allied powers after World War II. It examines how Astro Boy defines progress with the scientists: the light and the dark which ultimately leads to sacrifice. “Crucifix Island”, another story, again examines the ideal of subterfuge with a secret uranium mining operation (again a play to the atomic age) and an angle that points to the black market (via gangsters). Of course, Astro Boy represents the purity of the right which again retains the idea of robots rebelling against a notion of slavery. “Space Snow Leopard”, on that same thought process, is again a metaphor on advanced technology, specifically the idea of an electromagnetic pulse since the leopard of the story “takes energy away”. “The Artificial Sun” again examines an adventure story with an interesting take on atomic energy. In this case, a device can incinerate everything around it (much like a nuclear weapon) but if used properly is a great source of energy. Another interesting thing about Osamu Tezuka, the author, is that in this volume we see him talking to his characters and himself which leads him to explain how sometimes his editors require him to cut down page count causing the abridgement of stories. The big anthology in this Omnibus is “Once Upon A Time” which is a long form story which explains some aspects of a Shonen printing Tezuka did back in the 50s. In trying to save a crashing alien from harm, Astro Boy is thrown back in time 50 years. We see his interaction with an alien locust woman who came to the earth just to have fun. He explains that being alone, lost in time, they need money and a place to live. He must keep his identity as a robot secret even as he comes into contact with the scientists that eventually create him. It is a prequel of sorts exploring the sociological and psychological implementation of robots and the reflective law. The specific use of Baro as a robot programmed to destroy himself to test an H-Bomb again shows a inherent fear on both sides. Later on with Vietnam and even the story of the butler robot Chiruchiru, Tezuka interestingly makes a perception on a current war (he wrote it in the early 60s) as well as race bias. At different points, Astro Boy is placed in stasis but it shows his personality consistency through the years and notions of conscience. This volume is interesting to look at in terms of its breath and length but also some of the themes and touchstones it explores.
By Tim Wassberg